(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA -- Samantha Engebretsen had eight semesters with a 4.0 GPA, 11 times earned academic all-Big Sky Conference honors in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field, and three times was the recipient of the UM President’s Award.
She recently turned her degree in social work into a job as a resource specialist at Missoula Aging Services, officially changing her hometown from Enumclaw, Wash., to Missoula, where she hopes to remain “for many years to come.”
It’s a nearly perfect story, of opportunities earned to continue in the sport she loves at the collegiate level, of turning hard work in the classroom into a job that, given its daily duties, doubles as a blessing, except nothing that has happened for much of 2020 has been ideal.
Like most spring athletes, she had her future summarily cut short in March. One day she was training in the interim, between her final indoor and outdoor track seasons. The next she was coming to grips with the fact that she had put on a Montana racing singlet for the final time.
Injuries? They happen, particularly to distance runners. They are an accepted part of the process of training a body to perform at peak ability, but there is always the chance to come back. And not everyone on the team qualifies to go to the biggest meets.
The coronavirus made all of that seem minor, at least over time.
“It was a huge disappointment for me to lose my final track season,” said Engebretsen, who may have lost her final chance to compete, but still kept on track academically, finishing with one last 4.0. “It definitely was not the end I was expecting. It took me a while to be OK with it.
“What helped me find closure was a conversation I had with my dad. He said I should make a list of all the amazing memories I have from the past four years competing as a Griz. It made me realize how grateful I am for the time I did have and the memories I made with my teammates.”
Engebretsen was one of 70 Montana athletes from the department's list of shortened spring sports to earn Academic All-Big Sky Conference honors this week, a group that will forever be uniquely bound together in how things played out and how they still got it done in spite of it.
First, sports seasons were canceled. Then, classes went remote as campus effectively shut down for the semester. Everyone had to adapt on the fly. Comfortable routines became anything but.
"I'm always proud of how well our student-athletes do in the classroom. This semester I'm particularly proud, with so much uncertainty and in such a different landscape than what they're used to," said Director of Athletics Kent Haslam.
"Our student-athletes navigated a challenging time academically, and our faculty did an excellent job of minimizing the disruptions by quickly pivoting to a new delivery method and still preserving an academic experience."
Underclassmen will slowly see a return to normal. Their athletic careers were disrupted but in most cases not ended. For Engebretsen and those like her, who will never get that opportunity back, it's come at a cost that will only lose its edge over time.
"As I've grown up, everyone has always said to make sure to enjoy every moment and not take anything for granted. This unexpected experience has taught me what that truly means," she said.
Montana's softball team had 13 selections, which matched the league high in that sport. The golf team also equaled the league high with six.
The Griz tennis teams both had six selections, one off the league high, while 39 student-athletes from the outdoor track and field program were recognized.
Montana's Academic All-Big Sky Conference spring honorees:
Women's golf: Teigan Avery (Sr., Economics); Kylie Esh (So., Health and human performance); Tricia Joyce (Fr., Business administration); Jessica Ponce (Fr., Psychology); Allison Sobol (So., Psychology); Brooklyn Van Bebber (So., Communication studies)
Men's outdoor track and field: Andrea Baratte (So., Wildlife biology); Quincy Fast (Fr., Health and human performance); Nathan Graves (So.); Jaydon Green (So., Wildlife biology); Cade Johnstone (So., Business administration); Paul Johnstone (So., Marketing); Noah Kells (Sr., Health and human performance); Dylan Kipp (Sr., Health and human performance); Kip Krebsbach (So., Health and human performance); Callum Macnab (Sr., Public administration); Noah Ramirez (So., Business administration); Hunter May (So., Accounting); Josh Riley (Sr., Health and human performance); Jordan Stow (So., English); Jethro Thorne (So., Music)
Women's outdoor track and field: Cree Bell (Fr., Health and human performance); Jane Booth (Sr., Health and human performance); Abby Dodge (Jr., Health and human performance); June Eastwood (Sr., Philosophy); Olivia Ellis (Sr., Health and human performance); Samantha Engebretsen (Sr., Social work); Beatrix Frissell (Fr., Political science); Ailsa Gilbert (Fr., Elementary education); Mariah Harvey (Sr., Educational leadership); Darby Henthorn (Sr., Health and human performance); Holly Houston (Sr., Health and human performance); Rachel Lewis (Jr., Accounting); Jaree Mane (Jr., Health and human performance); Carla Nicosia (Sr., Health and human performance); Emma Normand (So., Psychology); Emily Pittis (Sr., Management); Morgan Radtke (Fr., Health and human performance); Chloe Seferos (Sr., Health and human performance); Grace Slevin (Sr., Health and human performance); Carly Smiedala (Sr., Psychology); Zena Smith (Sr., Health and human performance); Holly Sudol (Fr.); Aly Tekippe (Fr., Wildlife biology); Jansen Ziola (So., Pharmacy)
Softball: Tristin Achenbach (Jr., Health and human performance); Kendall Curtis (Fr., Business administration); Kylie Hayton (Sr., Health and human performance); Morgan Johnson (Sr., Management information systems); Jaxie Klucewich (Fr., Health and human performance); Lexi Knauss (Jr., Health and human performance); Jessica McAlister (Jr., Management information systems); Maygen McGrath (So., Management information systems); Anne Mari Petrino (Sr., Management and entrepreneurship); Julie Phelps (Fr., Health and human performance); Cami Sellers (Jr., Psychology); McKenna Tjaden (So., Marketing); Brooklyn Weisgram (So., Health and human performance)
Men's tennis: Milo Benn (So., Finance); Ludvig Hallgren (Sr., Political science); Pontus Hallgren (So., Economics); Max Korkh (Sr., Finance); Ed Pudney (So., Management information systems); Oisin Shaffrey (So., Management information systems)
Women's tennis: Bianca Bostrom (Jr., Management information systems); Maria Goheen (Fr., Psychology); Olivia Oosterbaan (Fr., Psychology); Claudia Reguant (So., Marketing); Julia Ronney (Jr., Biology); Alex Walker (So., Psychology)